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The Black Talis finishes his Autobiography

Date: Thu, Feb 20, 2014 Wine Tasting

Finally, I've finished the rough draft of "The Black Talis." I think of the rough draft as a sculpture blocked in. Think of "The Thinker" by Rodin. Hoping for online publication in the fall of '14. The Black Talis has many wine adventures in places such as France, New York, Minneapolis, Washington, Oregon and California which is why I think you might enjoy it. Right now, I've been tweeting about some of Talis' wine experiences. Follow his adventures @seattlewine blog.

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What's A Black Talis?

Date: Wed, Jul 10, 2013 Wine Tasting

What's a black Talis? What's it got to do with wine? A Talis is a Jewish prayer shawl. The black Talis is looking for a magical wine. Got any suggestions?

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Where's The Lamb?

Date: Mon, Jun 3, 2013 Wine Tasting

Yes, eat and drink better at home. Our friends, Bob and Kathy raise sheep. I've always maintained that American Lamb is best, well, with the possible exception of French lamb from Pauillac in Bordeaux. The best American lamb we've had come from the Toveys. Contrary to most people usually choose the wine, then the food. In this case, Kathy prepared exquisite lamb shanks. Bob and I had the difficult task of choosing the wine. The pair of Oregon Pinot Noirs seemed like they might be a little light for the shanks. The French Rhone wines, a Gigondas from Bernard and a Cotes du Rhone from St. Cosme definitely would have been a great choice, but we couldn't resist a pair of Glencorrie Cabs from the 2006 and 2007 vintages. Same vineyards, same vintner, two radically different wines.
The 2007 with a higher percentage of Gamache fruit, was lighter, fruitier, more forward, easier to drink, but not as complex and serious as the 2006 which had a higher amount of fruit from Stillwater vineyard. They both blew us away in their own ways - a fabulous pairing. As I said, better to eat and drink at home!

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Larks - Send It Back Twice

Date: Mon, Jun 3, 2013 Wine Tasting

Larks in the Ashland Springs Hotel in Ashland, Oregon has a locovore blackboard full of locally grown veggies and an appealing menu. We were looking forward to a great dinner, excuse me "supper", between plays at the Shakespeare Festival. Got off to a good start with a glass of Chehalem Chardonnay - fairly full bodied with nice balance between fruit and acid. Great on its own or with food. My wife had Raptor Ridge Pinot which was a little flat and acidic, but went well with her tasty salmon. Unfortunately, I had a new first! Had to send my fish back twice, then left without eating dinner. For details see my Yelp review. Moral of the story? Eat and drink better at home.

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Big News!

Date: Sun, May 19, 2013 Wine Tasting

Despite wild rumors to the contrary, I'm still here and I have big news, not to trump Donald Trump.
Sorry I disappeared for much of this year, but I've been working on a book. Didn't have the bandwidth for both the blog and the book. Not a wine book, but full of wine anecdotes. It's hard to describe, kind of Harry Potter meets Tom Clancy over a glass of wine.Well, not exactly, it's a bit of a spoof with many layers. Fun for those of you into references and allusions, but hopefully fun for everyone. It certainly has been fun for me. It's called The Black Talis. A Talis is a Jewish prayer shawl, but it really has very little to do things Jewish or with prayer shawls. In fact it's X rated. It's about a search for a magical solution. Is wine the solution?

Tune in for more hints and occasional posts on wine. I will only be posting from my iPad, so hopefully, they will be mercifully short and sweet. Adios for now!

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Oregon Reflections -II

Date: Thu, Aug 16, 2012 Wine Tasting

Now my fave de faves - Panther Creek. When Ken Wright struck out on his own, he left behind one the best wineries in Oregon - Panther Creek. Why is this my favorite Oregon winery? They have an incredible variety of vineyard designated wines and winemakers, Mike Stevenson and BillHanson. My favorite vineyard used to be Bednarick which is the northernmost vineyard in the portfolio, perhaps in the Willamette Valley. The weather at Bednarick is very erratic with such northern exposure, but in great years it is like a peacocks tail, a panoply of flavors. Unfortunately, because it is so erratic, Panther Creek has stopped making it. If you don't believe in "terroir" here's your chance to check it out. You can taste Shea, Freedom Hill, Vista and many other vineyards from the same winemakers and the same vintage. Notice any differences? Here's another secret. Mike produces his own label, Stevenson-Barrie and Bill makes Libra wines. They are very, very good and reasonably priced these are insider's wines - delicious and reasonably priced. If you can walk fifty yards you can check out Anthiny Dell-the 2005 Pinot was such full bodied and dark it reminded us of a Henri Gouges Nuits St. Georges. Another fifty yards will bring you to Domenico, another home of excellent wine. Want to get away from it all? Check out Elk Cove. Truly a a little glade in the woods, home of one of the oldest wineries in Oregon, the elk gather here and you should, too, for one of the best, fruitiness, but dry, Pinot Gris. Want some really good value? Try Bethel Heights unoaked Chardonnay.

Welcome to the feast, fellow wine bloggers!

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My Refections On Oregon Wines

Date: Thu, Aug 16, 2012 Wine Tasting

Wine bloggers will gather this weekend in Portland, Oregon for our annual conference. Even though I won't be able to attend, I thought I would share some of my impressions of Oregon wines. My fondest memories are of my visits to the Willamette Valley with my partner Bob Tovey, especially our visits to Carlton and the Dundee hills. Another highlight was our visit to Phelps winery in the Hood River AVA. Owner, Bob Morus told us that for every mile you go east there is one inch less rainfall. That's why you grow both Pinot Noir and Zinfandel within thirty miles of each other. Bob's Pinot Noirs are great even though the grapes are grown on the eastern slopes of the Cascades just north of Mt. Hood. Hood River is one of two AVAs that include both Oregon and Washington State. On the Washington side Syncline and Memoose produce excellent wines. The other bi- state AVA is Walla Walla. Zerba is a good example of an Oregon winery producing estate wines from the Oregon side of the Walla Walla AVA. Cristophe Baron's fabulous Cauyue wines are considered Washington state wines even though the "atelier" and vineyards are all in Oregon. Deborah Hansen's vineyards are all in the same stony "calloux" amidst the Oregon apple and cherry orchids as Christophe 's even the wines are made at Cougar Crest winery just outside of Walla Walla in Washington . Even though it would make sense, somehow Washington and Oregon have never been able to market together. Kind of like trying to herd cattle and sheep at the same time.

A less well known fact is that several Willamette Valley winemakers make great wines from the Walla Walla AVA. Ron Lachini, who I discovered in his first year at a Seattle wine event, has made excellent Pinot Noir from day one, but he also makes outstanding Bordeaux style blends from Walla Walla grapes. Ken Wright also makes great wines from Walla Walla grapes. He makes a spectacular Chardonnay from Cililo vineyard grapes grown in Washington . Ken is as close as you get to a cult wine celebrity in Oregon. His vineyard designated Pinots are fabulous. We especially like Canary, McCrone and Freedom vineyards. Since the great recession, it is possible to obtain Ken Wright wines directly at the Tyrus Evans tasting room in Carlton without having to be in the mailing list.

IMHO , some of the most famous Oregon Pinots aren't that great -Beaux Freres, Archery Summit, Serene, Argyle, Patricia Green to name a few seem overrated to us especially compared to our faves at much more reasonable prices. Drouhin is on the cusp for us. A little too pricey for what you get, though can never forget the 1992 that we drank in 2002 . It was spectacular! At age ten, we felt we were committing infanticide. We are not really talking about price, but price/quality. Back in Carlton, at the winemakers studio we discovered Ayoub and Retour. I probably shouldn't tell you about these - very small production, high prices, incredible wine.

There are so many other wonderful wines in the Yamhill/Carlton/Ribbon Ridge area, but let's moveon to the Red Hills of Dundee. Here you will find a veritable feast. Lange, Winderslea, Tori Mar and De Ponte Cellars are highlights. The winemaker at Tori Mar, Jean Tardy, comes from an old Burgudian winemaking family and makes top notch Burgundy style Pinots. The Pinots from De Ponte are beautifully made by French winemaker, Isabelle. Everything Isabelle touches turns to gold, not just the Pinots, but the melon, the rose, you name it. Here's another secret! Ssh! When I first met Isabelle, she was wearing a very warm sweater in the middle of summer. Now, admittedly, Dundee is not the warmest place in the world, but her dress seemed extreme. Isabelle told me tat she had moved from the sith of France to start a new life with her children and shortly thereafter she gave birth to a new revolutionary wine , "1789", the year of the French revolution. Try to get your hands on sime at the De Ponte tasting room.

Okay, so you don't like back roads in the woods. You want to stay in town. Some of the best kept secrets are hidden in McMinnville. The whole Oregon wine industry was virtually started in the 1970s by pioneers such as David Lett. Everyone thought David was crazy. He planted Pinot Noir and Pinot blanc into wilds of Oregon I remember his 1976 Pinot Noir. It tasted like many of it's California cousins - a little clunky, a little chunky, but no worse than anything it of California. Up to his death a few years ago, eyrie wines were always in the lead. Now under his son, Jason the tradition continues with some interesting modifications. Bob and I will always remember his "Blackcap" Pinot - dark as ink, full of flavor

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Black Magic

Date: Thu, Jul 19, 2012 Wine Tasting

I left the best for last. It turns out that Carol Shelton is also a magician. Her Black Magic is a very unusual Zin Port. Light in color and body and only about 5% residual sugar this one would work as an aperatif before rather than after dinner. In Fact, if you have any French friends, they will love it as the French always drink their Port as an apero, not an after dinner digestif. However you take it, you will like it.

Contrast this with the Trentadue Zinfandel Port. Exact opposites. First and last wines of the evening, aperatif and digestif. Different styles, but both WOW wines. The Trentadue is big and inky and tastes very similar to Porto from Portugal. In fact, it is one of the best American Ports I've had look for it or order from the winery or join their Port club

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Zapatistas Ride Into Seattle - Part I

Date: Wed, Jul 18, 2012 Wine Tasting

Once again, ZAP, Zinfandel Advocates and Producers visits Seattle. This time it was a pleasure. Many of the usual suspects were missing, and some rootin', tootin' gunslingers arrived with some mighty mean beverages. Really, there were some old timers, some biggies, but there were also some interesting characters wd hacn't seen before.

Carol Shelton is not exactly a newbie. In fact, she is a pioneering woman winemaker. She got started shortly after Zelma Long, back in the 1970s. My mom was a fiminist, so I get excited about pioneering women, but that is not really the point about Coral SheltonWines. The real point is incredible quality.The wines are organic and some are made with wild yeast fermentation. Anyone who wants to seriously tk about terroir needs to pay attention to the wild yeast in their neighborhood.

Where the wild things are! 2008 "Wild Thing" Old Vine Zinfandel is 83% Zin, 13% Carignane, 2% Petite Sirah, 2% Cabbernet. Get down on your hand an knees and worship. An amazing value at$15 a bottle. Search, search, search, cherchez le Zin!

Istanbul, Cucamonga - 2008 "Monga" Zin - Frankly, the only good wine I haveever tasted from Cucamonga grapes. Carol says rustic and tamed , I say fabulous with licorice and five spce in the nose. Hunt for this one at about $15.

Good Karma - 2008 "Karma Zin' - 3% Alicante Bouschet, 3% Petite Syrah Carol says, "lusty, full- bodied, powerful, classic Sonoma Zin, I say soft pleaure with hints of chocolatefor only $25.

2008 Rockpile - Okay, so Mauritsen claims to whole RockpileAVA for themselves. Not so fast buddies, Carol says she staked a claim earlier than you guys and harvests a big substantial, serious wine from the the rockpile

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Monte Ferro: A New Northwest Wine

Date: Mon, Jul 16, 2012 Wine Tasting

My wife's friend, Cindy, gave us a Monte Ferro Syrah from her brother-in-law. It's good stuff with a nose of cherries with a hint of pepper. It has a deep, rich color, lots of black fruit and a hint of acid and tannin which should completely smooth out in a few months. Even though the alcohol is a very high 15.1%, it is not overly jammy and in your face. Definitely in the league with some of the more established northwest wineries. Now, where exactly is Monte Ferro? Grapes from the Columbia Valley, winery in Carlton? Whose the winemaker? Made at Cana or the winemaker studio? what's the bit with MonteFerro Foods? Website just shows Godaddy ads. Why Monte Ferro, Iron Mountain? I guess it's like so many startups - so many hats, so little time. Most of all I w old like to see a Pinot Noir from a winery based in the Willamette Valley

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Independence Day In June?

Date: Thu, Jun 7, 2012 Wine Tasting

No, I'm not off my rocker. on July 1st almost everybody was free to sell liquor - No more state liquor stores. At the initiative of Costco, we switched from liquor in state stores only, to what should have been a feast for consumers. Walgreens,Safeway, Albertsons, and Costco started selling booze. The old state liquor stores started selling under private ownership. Go figure. Chaos and confusion prevailed! Listed prices excluded all taxes including excise. Which previously had been embedded in washigton's high prices. You had to be able to figure out thirty percent more for tax. Those bottleslisted at $30, werereally going to set you back $40. Where were those promised lower prices? Where was the longed for variety? The pricing strikes me as deceptive. In California, if johnnie walker is $30, it's thirty buck plain and simple. Safeway was the most aggressive marketer with " sale" prices on virtually everything. At least Albertsons had the decency to post examples of the new pricing system. The manager at Trader Joe's told me they would have more competitive prices once they started buying direct. The effect on wine? Less shelf space. The moral of the story, be careful what you wish for. Watch those libertarian impulses. How will it evolve? We shall see!

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Nick's Wine: Amarone

Date: Wed, Feb 1, 2012 Wine Tasting

Cousin Nick gave my wife a bottle of Amarone which we saved until his visit. Amarone is a fascinating wine made mostly from the Corvino grape in the Valpolicella region of Italy close to Venice.
Traditionally the grapes are laid out on bamboo racks to dry, thus concentrating the flavor. NIck brought us a 2004 Amarone Classico from Cantina Negrar. We served itwith grilled quail over a bed of farro salad at room temperature. I must say it was a perfect pairing for lunch.The wine was big, rich, and complex, full of nuance and not at all jammy - a real treat! Thanks, Nick.

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An Offer You Can't Refuse From The Wall Street Journal

Date: Wed, Feb 1, 2012 Wine Tasting

No, it's not a one year subscription to the Wall Street Journal for $1. When "The Wall Street Journal" offered 15 wines for $75, I couldn't resist. The offer was slick and made me wonder ifthis was the next new Geerlings & Wade.The strong UPS man struggled to get the 15 bottle case into the house. Opening the box I found three bottles ofmy "bonus" Italian Chianti, several other Italian reds, two Spanish Riojas, one French Bordeaux, one Calfionia Pinot Noir, one Calfornia Cabernet, and I think two Australians.There were wine notes, a loose leaf folder, and a sign up sheet for my friends. Fifty bucks for me,if you sign up! Wanna sign up?

The wines looked amazingly kosher, amazingly correct - nice shiny new bottles with impeccable labels, all the right language - vintage, wine name, country, region ,and certificationsA.O.C., D.O.C.G., etc,.Very impressive, though I must admit I was skeptical. So far I've tasted three of them.

The first wine we tasted was a 2006 Torre Ercilla Reserva Rioja from Spain certified as aRioja Reserva by Denomenacion de Origen Calificadaand garbed in thegolden wire netting so often associated with Rioja. All we could taste was acid, no resemblance to a Rioja or Tempranillo. Actually, one of the worst wines I've ever tasted. Give it a 65. Not off to a very good start , but wait,there's more.

The second wine was a 2010 Chianti apparently from Collezione Di Paolo, Denominazione Di Origine Controllata e Garantita. This wasn't bad at all. Medium-bodied with lots of good berry fruit and just the right amount of tangy finish for a Chianti. Better than many Chiantis I've tasted in the past. This certainly was a worthy bonus. Give it an 84.

The third wine was a 2009 William Knuttel Sonoma Pinot Noir "Epee Cuvee". Light to medium-bodied with earth tones and cherry flavors. A little flat but in the same league with Erath Pinot Noir at $15-$20 a bottle. Give it an 86.

So, so far, batting two for one. Not a bad batting average at all. You will probably never read about these wines in Robert Parker, but for five bucks the good ones are a real bargain, for $12 or more the value is about the same as in the supermarket.Will the WSJ wines go down the drain the way Geerlings and Wade did? Who knows? Only the shadow knows! Stay tuned! There are six more wines to go.

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How To Ruin a Good Bordeaux

Date: Thu, Jan 19, 2012 Wine Tasting

IMHO, lamb is the only thing to have with a good Bordeaux, preferably a St. Julien or Margaux. The bestmatch, of course, is with the difficult to find Agneau de Pauilliac, pairing local food with local wine. Since this is not possible in most of the world you must bring the Bordeaux to the lamb. Local American lamb can be quite tender and delicious. The best American lamb we ever had was in Douglas, Wyoming. Sonoma produces beautiful stuff and the Tovey's lamb from Oregon has always pleased. But, alas, the local stuff is not always available, either,somore often than not,we have hadto resort tolamb from Costcoor Trader Joe's. Since the Great Recession. however we have had at least two bad experiences with lamb from Australia at Trader Joe's and Costco. Generally speakingNew Zealandlamb seems younger and more tender and we have had no trouble with it.Australain lamb can be bigger, tougher and older, a little closer to mutton which we also love.

So what's the problem. Well, it appears that since the crash of 2008, the Australians have been using more and more Hydrogen Sulfide as a preservative. So not only is the meat vacuum packed, but the bag is imjected with Hydrogen Sufide to keepthe oxygen out and thus add extra shelf life to the product. The problem is the product stinks! H2S smells like rotten eggs. If the right amount is used it usuallydissipates and the meat smells reasonably fresh in a few minutes. On the other hand, if too much is used, the lamb continues to smell like rottens eggs right through cooking and onto the palate, Ugg! Yuck!!! Perhaps the only appropriate pairing at this poin twould be with a corked wine. Just think of the smell of rotten eggs paired with the smell of wet dog, sweat socks or wet cardboard. Let's give the TCA cheer - 2,4,6 trichloroanisole, rah, rah , rah! Nah, nah, nah! Take it back. Stick it in their face if necessary.

We once had lamb paired with 1995 Chateau Labegorce Zede, a Cru Bourgeois Margaux, a real treat.. Get yourself a real treat. Look for domestic or New Zealand lamb and pair itwith Bordeaux, perhaps a 2009 Haut Sorillon from Trader Joe's (about $10) or a 2009 Bois Redon from Total Wines (about $9).Avoid thathydrogen sulfide and enjoy!

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